Storybox Idea

“This Is Not My Hat” wins the Caldecott Medal!

Posted by on Jan 30, 2013 in Art, Early Learning, Fluency, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Logic Smart, Nature Smart, Print Concepts, Storybox Idea | 0 comments

If you’re a kid-lit lover like me, you already know that This Is Not My Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen won the Caldecott Medal for 2012. (Were you huddled around your computer screen that morning, too, watching the live broadcast and squealing when your favorites were announced? Just me? Ok.)

This Is Not My Hat is an ideal picture book to teach the Common Core Standard of Integrating Knowledge & Ideas: “Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot”  and “explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).” The story told by the text is not exactly the same as the story told by the pictures. (Working on a lesson on inference? Grab this book!)

A little fish (the fellow you see on the cover) is narrating the story as he swims. “This hat is not mine,” he admits. He stole it from a big fish, and we see the big fish sleeping. “…(H)e probably won’t wake up for a long time,” says the little fish, and we see the same illustration of that big fish, but now his eyes are wide open. So all the words are from the little fish’s point of view, but we see in the illustrations what the little fish doesn’t realize – the big fish does realize his hat was stolen, does know who took it, and is out to get his hat back. The end shows the big fish with his tiny hat back on his head, and the little fish is nowhere to be seen. Anyone want to infer what happened in the end?

Kids who loved Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back will adore this book, and find similarities beyond the hat theme. So share This Is Not My Hat and compare the information gained from the illustrations to the information we get from the text, and then compare the two books, and you’ll have a double-whammy Integration of Knowledge & Ideas lesson! The endings for both books is left up to the reader to figure out. You can have students debate what they think happens at the end, and give reasons to support their position. Do any of your students think the little fish got away? If he did, what might happen next?

Because there are only three characters in This Is Not My Hat (little fish, big fish, and tattle-tale crab) it’s super-easy to make a Storybox with the book and either stuffed animals, puppets, or felt pieces of the characters for kids to retell the story. If you’re crafty, have kids make hats from brown paper bags (keeping with Klassen’s muted tones) for them to swap and declare, “This is not my hat!”

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Suryia Swims!

Posted by on Aug 30, 2012 in Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Range of Reading, Storybox Idea | 0 comments

suryiaswimsIt’s the end of August, so before we pull out the books about apples, pumpkins, and leaves changing color, let’s give one last hurrah to summer with Suryia Swims! How an Orangutan Learned to Swim.

“Their evolutionary history has taught (orangutans) to beware of dangers, such as crocodiles, that lurk in the water. Because of this, the intuition that would have encouraged orangutans to swim never developed.” Orangutans like Suryia don’t swim, but then again, Suryia is not a typical orangutan. He lives in South Carolina at a wildlife preserve called T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) instead of Southeast Asia like his wild counterparts. His best friend is a dog named Roscoe. And when the tigers, the otter, the elephant, and the tapir go swimming in T.I.G.E.R.S. pool, Suryia jumps in, too.

The photographs by Barry Bland are incredible. Suryia cuddles leopard cubs in the water and dives for plastic rings, things an orangutan would typically never do. In the safe wildlife preserve that Bhagavan “Doc” Antle founded, animals don’t have to struggle for survival, so “their intellect and curiosity can grow”. Seeing all the other animals have fun in the water may have encouraged Suryia to overcome his fear, too. Sounds a bit like a good classroom, doesn’t it?

Use this nonfiction picture book to teach the Common Core State Standard of Key Ideas and Details: students retelling the who/what/where/when/why of a text. After you share this book with your students, discuss the information found in the author’s note. Why is it so unusual for Suryia to swim? Why do you think Suryia took the plunge? At our library, we have found that Storyboxes or magnetic Storyboards are great vehicles for retelling. We find puppets or stuffed animals of the characters in the book, or make copies of open-source images and glue old magnets to the back. We put the characters and the book in a center for students to retell or act out the details they’ve learned. Students can use a puppet orangutan and say why he’s afraid of swimming. One by one, students can put Roscoe the dog in a pretend pool, then Bubbles the elephant, Tonks the tiger, the baby bear Ondar, etc. and retell the details of the book. Go to to see video clips of this amazing, swimming orangutan and his best animal friend. Suryia Swims! written by Bhagavn “Doc” Antle with Thea Feldman and photographs by Barry Bland will reaffirm for your students that anything is possible!



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Why Wordless Books Work: The Lion and the Mouse

Posted by on Jun 27, 2012 in Art, Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Nature Smart, Print Concepts, Storybox Idea, Vocabulary, Wordless | 0 comments

If we’re trying to help our kids learn to read, why read wordless picture books? Isn’t reading all about letters and words?

Yes and no.

Reading is: to inspect and apprehend the meaning of writing or other signs or characters. (Thanks, based on the Random House dictionary!) So, reading a book means gaining meaning from the words and from the pictures.  Here are some key reading skills kids build when they read wordless books:

  1. Comprehension as they follow the story shown in the pictures
  2. Print concepts (we read top to bottom, left to right)
  3. Sequencing
  4. Inferring
  5. Predicting
  6. Vocabulary

How can a wordless book build a child’s vocabulary? Research led by professors Sandra Gilliam, Ph. D. and Lisa Boyce, Ph. D. from the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University showed that mothers used more complex language when sharing a wordless book with their children than they did when they made comments while reading a book with words. (Utah State University Study Shows Parents Are More Engaged With Their Children When Reading Books Without Text June 07, 2011, retrieved June 15, 2012)

And of course, the most important reason to share wordless books is because these books draw kids into a world where even those who struggle with letter recognition can successfully read a fantastic story.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a gorgeous “retelling” one of Aesop’s fables. It won the Caldecott medal, with good reason.   Young ones will enjoy the art, and older ones can discuss the deeper layers of the fable.

Before reading The Lion and the Mouse, talk about reading a book with no words. We readers have to really examine the art to understand what is going on. Share this book and let your students either turn to a partner to share or tell the whole group what is happening in the story. Ask students to predict what will happen when they see the hunters setting up the trap and then the lion’s foot stepping on a rope. Use rich vocabulary yourself as you add to the conversation about the plot and what will happen next.

As a writing activity, students can write the dialogue between the lion and the mouse on sticky notes and put them on appropriate pages to read aloud to a friend. It’s perfect for retelling if you make a storybox with a stuffed lion and mouse, and a length of string. No matter what the reading level of your students, all of them will enjoy successfully reading The Lion and the Mouse.

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It’s time to Bawk & Roll!

Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in Body Smart, Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Music Smart, Readers' Theater, Storybox Idea | 0 comments

Elvis Poultry and his back-up chicks are back, so hop on this tour bus and get ready to Bawk & Roll! Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat made this follow-up book just as irresistible as their first tail-shaker, Chicken Dance. Marge and Lola are now officially back-up dancers for the King of the Roost himself, Elvis Poultry. But when the lights go down and the curtains go up, Marge and Lola are truly chicken, too overwhelmed to flap a wing or shake a feather. Picturing the crowd in their underwear doesn’t help them (although your kids will looove that scene!), relaxing with bubble baths and meditation doesn’t do the trick, but with a little help from their friends, these chickens end up really cooking on stage.

For those of us looking for great books to compare/contrast to meet the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas Common Core State Standard (RL 3.9 if you’re playing CCSS Bingo at home), share Chicken Dance and Bawk & Roll with your kids. Compare what Marge and Lola do in each book – how they overcome their fears, how the other characters in the books help them, etc. Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat have so much fun, free stuff on their website: You can print off and make your own rockin’ Elvis Poultry sunglasses and wear them while you watch the author and the illustrator teach you how to do different dances! These books would be fantastic for Readers’ Theater scripts and so fun and easy for a Storybox if you put cut-out characters with book for kids to retell the story. Guaranteed, all your little ones will say after hearing Bawk & Roll, “Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.”

Follow the Bawk & Roll tour bus as it rolls across the internet:


April 2-6 Rob Sanders: Picture This!

April 3 Julie Danielson: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

April 4 Jennifer Bertman: From the Mixed-Up Files of Jennifer Bertman

April 4 Kristen Remenar: Author, Librarian, National Speaker – Hey, that’s me! 🙂

April 5 Julie Hedlund: Write Up My Life

April 6 Jennifer Rumberger: Children’s Author

For more information, visit or

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